Gathering Together as Believers

There is a verse that has occupied my every thought as of late. One of the most asked questions I receive as a pastor is, “How do I truly know that I am saved?” Some may answer this question by saying back to the person asking, “Was there ever a time in your life that you professed Jesus as Lord? If so, you’re saved!” But if this were so, then to be a Christian all one must do is to repeat a boy scout like pledge, and that would be that. Jesus says that there are certain signs of a true Christian. The apostle Paul urged believers to constantly examine their lives.

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” 2 Corinthians 13:5.

The verse which God has placed on my heart as of late is indeed one of these tests of faith.

“Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” 1 John 2:4-6.

Its more than just keeping his commandments. Cue in on the last sentence of the verse above. “...whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”

This is a major indicator of true faith. Don’t just read this verse. Meditate on what John is saying to us. If we claim to know Jesus, as most people in the Bible belt do, then the fruit of this profession is that we will begin to walk like Him! Please don’t miss this! For anyone who has doubted their salvation and wondered how to tell if they truly believe, here it is. True faith begins a process of sanctification in the life of the Christian, where in they begin to take on the characteristics of their Heavenly Father!

When I was a child, I looked up to my dad so much. My father is an amazing man and was a great dad. I can remember as a child wanting to be just like him. I remember one afternoon watching him shoot a game of pool. He knocked everyone of those balls in the pocket he was aiming for flawlessly. I recall attempting to do it like dad, and I couldn’t reach a perfect game like he did. But I always kept striving for perfection. When I messed up, it broke my heart and I tried even harder, as my dad continued to encourage me.

This is much like our relationship with Christ. We will never reach perfection like our Heavenly Father. However, the true believer strives for this in every aspect of life, and it breaks his heart when he fails in sin. And in light of that failure, the true child of God tries even harder.

They don’t strive for perfection so that God will love them. The true believer strives for perfection because God already loves them, and is their Father.

The true believer strives to walk like Jesus, because they truly want to be like their dad.

Are you asking “Am I truly saved?” Let me answer your question with a question. Are you striving to walk like your Heavenly Father? Are you heartbroken when you fail? I pray you examine yourself in light of scripture. Salvation is something we cannot afford to be wrong about.

So very briefly, I want to take some time to take a small glimpse into how Jesus walked. One of the most distinguishing marks of how Christ walked was his love for people. Specifically, his love for fellowshipping and gathering with the saints.

Yes, Jesus also fellowshipped with the lost. But fellowshipping with the lost really isn’t a problem in our world today. In fact, most folks know more lost people through interactions at their workplaces and lives outside of the church than they do saved people. Church people struggle to make fellowshipping with brothers and sisters inside of the church a priority. We fall into the trap of thinking that if we just make it to the main Sunday morning service, then the other activities of the church are not that important.

Activities such as Sunday school, or a fellowship time before Sunday School are staples in many churches today. However, it is so easy to make excuses as to why we don’t attend. The biggest excuse we come up with centers around a Sunday morning schedule. Years ago, the church I was a member of had a early Sunday morning gathering and fellowship time. I hardly ever attended. When asked by my pastor why I didn’t attend, I began to point to my schedule, saying, “Well I just cant get the family ready by then.” Even saying this I knew how paper thin my argument was.  We had our kids and ourselves dressed for school and out the door by 7:30 AM every weekday, but when it comes to God’s day I can’t do the same?

Another excuse I used was, “Well I just don’t get anything out of early morning fellowship.” But I failed to realize that God’s day is not always about my preferences. And more than that, I failed to realize the importance of gathering with my church family. I failed to realize the importance of deepening my relationships with my spiritual brothers and sisters. I failed to realize that in Christ, these people in the church are my eternal family. So why on earth would I want only a casual, superficial relationship with them where we nod to each other before and after service?

 “We should not stop gathering together with other believers, as some of you are doing. Instead, we must continue to encourage each other even more as we see the day of the Lord coming.” Hebrews 10:25.

This verse couldn’t be any clearer. It is apparent the writer of Hebrews was seeing that some believers were neglecting to fellowship and gather. And he was writing out against this.

Jesus Himself was constantly going to the lost, but always surrounded by his brothers and sisters in the faith. Developing relationships with others was important to Him. Gathering with believers was just one of the ways in which Jesus walked.

Examine yourself. Do you enjoy the fellowship of other believers? Or do excuses come easily as to avoid such gatherings? Again, if we are seeking to walk like Jesus, then this is a major heart check that we must all take.

“Therefore, encourage each other and strengthen one another as you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

Gathering to fellowship with our church families is not always convenient, but sometimes we must deny ourselves and realize that fellowship is not always about us. Its about an opportunity to gather and encourage and strengthen others in Christ.

 “All the believers kept meeting together, and they shared everything with each other.  From time to time, they sold their property and other possessions and distributed the money to anyone who needed it.  The believers had a single purpose and went to the temple every day. They were joyful and humble as they ate at each other’s homes and shared their food.  At the same time, they praised God and had the good will of all the people. Every day the Lord saved people, and they were added to the group.” Acts 2:44-47.

What an amazing picture of what the true church is to look like. Notice it says they were joyful and humble, and they desire to share things with one another. This attitude is a byproduct of what we see in the beginning of the verse.

“All the believers kept meeting together.”

Building strong relationships takes work, sacrifice, and at times, self denial. Sometimes that means not sleeping in so late on Sunday mornings. Sometimes that means missing a certain television program. But over time, this intentional gathering of believers leads to deep, meaningful relationship that is ultimately glorifying to God.

As a parent, there is nothing more joyous than to see our four boys actually playing and getting along together. More than that, it warms our hearts that our boys actually want to be around each other! We are but images and shadows of Almighty God. For we are made in His image. How much more true that it should please the heart of God to see His children desire to love one another?

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.” 1 John 4:11-13.

There you see the image of God in man. For if God so loved us, then if we are his image, we should also love one another. Notice the verse mentions no one has ever seen God, but His love and image can be seen in us through our fellowship! Here is the test again, “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us.” By what? By our love shown for one another!!

“..complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” Philippians 2:2.

Paul had this love as a father watching his children fellowship. He wrote to the Philippian church and said that it would bring him much joy to hear that they had a deep love for one another, and that they were of one mind. How do you get to be of one mind? In a world where everyone has a different opinion on all things. What Paul was saying is that in spite of our personality differences, the Christian would have one thing in common that made every other difference pale in comparison, that being their unity in Christ. And this can only come about by the gathering of the saints in fellowship.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7.

There are many things that defined the walk of Christ. And if we say we know Him, we must evaluate ourselves by comparing our walks to His. Jesus walked in a manner of constant fellowship and love. Church was never meant to be just an institution on par with the school PTA meeting or the Town Hall assembly. Church was meant to be a family. Do you have a genuine love for your church family? Do you desire to surround and encourage them? If not, you are missing out on an enormous blessing, and missing the point of what it means to be the body of Christ. I pray that we would all seek to walk as Christ walked, and begin to put aside our flesh in order to be a picture of God through to the outside world by expressing our love for gathering together as brothers and sisters in Christ. A love for the saints is a mark of true love for God.

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